Novel imaging biomarker for detection of regional cardiovascular inflammation using Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Inflammation plays a key role in a number of different pathologies throughout the body. In our group, we are interested in developing PET imaging approaches which will allow the non-invasive assessment of inflammation in a range of cardiovascular and neurological diseases. We are currently developing a PET radiotracer, [18F]LW223, which targets the widely studied inflammatory marker 18 kDa translocator protein (TSPO) without susceptibility to a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs6971) in TSPO gene. We are currently at the stage of validating the use of [18F]LW223 to image TSPO expression in health and its dynamics in myocardial infarction and dementia. Our research is primarily driven by findings obtained from studying small animal models, but we also aim to evaluate the translational potential of [18F]LW223 using well characterised post-mortem human tissues.
Myocardial fibrosis and left ventricular remodelling in cardiovascular disease
Tissue inflammation and fibrosis following cardiovascular injury are two key fundamental processes involved in healing and remodelling. They are intimately involved in the left ventricular remodelling response to acute myocardial infarction, and are a major determinant of the subsequent progression to heart failure. Our reserach aims to understand and to characterise the pathophysiology and time course of collagen synthesis in the remodelling myocardium using a model of myocardial infarction. In order to achieve this, we will use 18F-fluoroprolines and PET imaging as biomarker of collagen biosynthesis, which can be readily translatable for clinical application for the same condition. This work will establish novel cardiovascular positron-emitting radiotracers for clinical application, with the potential to improve the characterisation of cardiovascular injury and repair, and enable the development of novel therapeutic strategies to inhibit maladaptive fibrosis implicated in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease.
Imaging myelination/remyelination processes with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and a selective sphingosine-1-phosphate-5 (S1P5) radiotracer
Sphingosine-1-Phosphate (S1P) receptors are a family of G protein coupled receptors expressed widely across the body. Our group has an interest in S1P5 as it holds particular significance in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). S1P5 is thought to be expressed almost exclusively on oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system. S1P5 is targeted by the MS drug FYT720, albeit secondary to FYT720’s effect on the S1P1 receptor, yet the role of S1P5 in demyelinating diseases is not clearly defined. Further evidence on S1P5 distribution and effect on oligodendrocyte biology is required. Our research ultimately aims to develop and validate a radiotracer for S1P5 to allow for in vivo imaging of oligodendrocytes and ultimately to develop a greater understanding of S1P5 role in normal physiology and during disease.
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Standardisation of preclinical PET/CT protocols across multiple research centres
Preclinical data generated by different imaging centres can be difficult to compare due to the lack of standardisation of PET/CT imaging parameters. This also impacts on the ability to translate preclinical findings to clinical trials. This study: (1) quantitatively assesses the variability of current preclinical PET/CT acquisition and reconstruction protocols routinely used across multiple centers and scanners; and (2) proposes acquisition and reconstruction PET/CT protocols for standardization of multi-center data, optimized for routine scanning in preclinical PET/CT laboratory.
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Results from this research were published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine and featured as top story of the October 2019 SmartBrief from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).